Don't wait for someone else. Leave now.
Since I was a little girl, I've suffered from wanderlust. Perhaps my ancestors were nomads, or maybe I was a Roma woman in a past life, because for as long as I can remember I have longed to be on the move. Unsatisfied staying at home, I like to travel as often as possible, seeing as much of the world as I possibly can.
The problem was, I didn't come from a family that was particularly interested in visiting a lot of faraway places even if they could have afforded it, so growing up, the only time I even got close to a foreign country was when we went to EPCOT.
I vowed that someday, I'd find a husband to show me the world. Except... I didn't.
I spent most of my twenties with the same guy, and we went on a few weekend trips here and there, but we didn't enjoy the same things. I often felt frustrated that my friends were off seeing other countries, while I was stuck at home.
Then we broke up, and after a string of dating disasters, I realized I wasn't going to find my sojourning soulmate anytime soon. That's when one day it finally occurred to me that I didn't need a man to guide and protect me and take me places. I didn't need my family, and I didn't even need a friend to go along.
If I really wanted to travel so badly, I could do it alone. Which was absolutely terrifying, especially for someone like me who lives with anxiety and depression.
Luckily, my desire overrode my fear and I did it anyway, starting small.
The first solo trip I took was a weekend at a nearby bed and breakfast. I'd always wanted to stay in one, and no guy ever took me, so I went by myself. After that, I worked up to shorter domestic trips until I was finally brave enough to fly overseas completely unaccompanied.
Traveling alone is the best decision I have ever made, and it has shaped who I am for the better. Whenever people ask me for advice about how to find themselves, how to discover their passions, or what to do when they feel irreparably lost and broken, I always tell them: go on a literal journey and don't be afraid to have adventures on your own.
Solo travel will change your life forever and here are just some of the ways:
1. You realize you're in charge and this spills over into all areas of your life.
You decide where to go and when and how. You are the one who chooses which fork in the road to follow.
2. There's no having to wait, rely, or depend upon anyone else.
Let's face it: sometimes other people can be really annoying. Traveling alone means no waiting an extra hour for your sister to do her hair and missing the running of the bulls because her bangs wouldn't curl. It means not having to eat at a place that's no fun because your partner is picky, and it means skipping one attraction for something more spontaneous rather than sticking to your friend's rigid itinerary.
3. There's an addicting sense of freedom.
You'll realize your life has no limits. You can literally do anything you want. Sleep all day in a cozy Paris hotel room overlooking the Eiffel Tower? Why not? Stay up all night in Buenos Aires? Do it!
4. It's an accomplishment to be proud of and will do amazing things for your self-esteem.
It's not easy and it's not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to be away from everything and everyone that's comfortable and familiar.
5. Traveling alone forces you to reach out to others.
Since you're not with a friend or a loved one, you have no one else to fall back on it. I notice that when I travel alone, I tend to make new and exciting friends, but when I travel with others, I stick to my group and don't interact much with the locals. I feel like getting to know people outside of my usual circle makes for a richer, more meaningful experience.
6. You'll learn self-reliance.
A lot of it. If you get lost in St. Petersburg, you can't call your dad for help. You're getting yourself out of this one. Can't read Mandarin? Don't know where the best soup dumplings can be found? Figure it out. Traveling by yourself will teach you valuable leadership skills.
7. Solo-travel opens minds and expands consciousness.
You're going to experience things that will blow your mind as soon as you venture away from the familiar. When you see how others live, and when you get out of your own box, you realize that there are infinite templates for how to believe, how to love, how to navigate this beautiful, chaotic, messy, unpredictable life.
8. Traveling by yourself becomes a metaphor.
Ultimately, other people are only temporary. We walk our own paths through this world, and while we have lots of relationships, we must realize that all of life is a solo journey and we determine our destination.
9. It makes you confront your fears head on.
I can't tell you how many times I got scared by myself. I had full-on panic attacks in foreign locales, thousands of miles from the comforts of home, and there was no one I could turn to for help or reassurance. I had to talk myself off the proverbial ledge, and I got very good at it, which is a skill I'm grateful for to this day.
10. You become more tolerant, compassionate and accepting of differences.
You realize that people all over the world want the same things. We speak different languages, eat different foods, worship in unique ways, and raise our kids differently, but we are all human beings who experience joy and grief, and who long for acceptance and validation.
I've made some bad choices in life, but the one thing I will never regret is deciding to travel alone. I'm a married mom now, but I still have the same sense of adventure, and while I love traveling with my family, I still enjoy solo adventures.
When my daughter is old enough, I plan to fully encourage her to go off on her own, too, because I think it will make her a self-sufficient, confident, and compassionate woman.